It took some delving to identify 'the bush'

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

The friend who gave me a small shrub a few years ago didn't know what to call it. "It gets tiny purple berries that really last," she said. "They come after fuzzy-pink flowers. That's all I know."

She figured I'd probably not rest till I found out more about it and then let her in on the secret.

Actually, it took three such proddings to get me going. I called it simply "the bush.m IT was truly gratifying. Bees, mostly bumblebees, visited it with obvious relish.

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The berries remained long after the leaves had dropped off.

The best feature, however, was that it bloomed here in New England in late August -- in contrast to most of our spring-blossomers. This drew more attention, naturally, having the September stage all to itself.

Last year another friend asked me if I had anything she might add to a dried bouquet for a flower show. I thought of "the bush"m -- now shedding its leaves -- with all those rows of perfect little violet beads adorning it. Happily pruning the exuberant growth, I deliver a few branches.

Tardily, around Thanksgiving time, I receive her note of appreciation. Her arrangement had taken first prize in the "most unusual"m category. My branches had held up extremely well. But what was the name of it, everyone wanted to know, including my own niecE.

I offered her a few tender green tips that might take root next spring. But she declined. "Just get me the name of the plant and I'll send away for it" she said.

Thus, I was driven into my research.

In an old (1959) Wayside Gardens catalog, so lovely and informative I couldn't bear to discard it, I found an illustration of Callicarpa,m the violet jewel berry. The article described gracefully curving branches, closely set with multiple pink-tinted flowers, to be followed by masses of violet-purple berries, lasting till midwinter.

Eureka!m I had found it and so passed the informaion on to my niece.

She found the shrub easily in a current listing and entered her order. (It's also called beautyberry and is usually grown for the attractive berries.)

There's also a Southern variety, C. americana,m which isn't hardy in New England. c. dichtoma,m which does well in the Northeastern part of the United States, takes to hard pruning. If winter-killed to the ground it will sprout new shoots from live roots and still berry the first year.

What more can one ask? I ask you.

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